World Notes: Kenya, Thailand, Egypt, France, Colombia, Cuba

Kenya: Waste disposal violates human rights

The Dandora waste disposal site serves Nairobi’s four million people. Burning of chemical, hospital, industrial, agricultural, and domestic waste is continuous. Two years ago the United Nations Environmental Program estimated 900,000 people living in nearby poverty stricken areas are affected by toxic fumes. Half the children tested are poisoned by lead, half suffer from respiratory disease, and many have neurologic and endocrine diseases. Local communities have mobilized, demanding relocation of the operation to a non- residential area, a waste management policy, a recycling program, and jobs. Organizers held a forum on December 10, World Human Rights Day, followed by a visit of government officials and UNEP representatives to the Dandora site where, according to, they met with community members.

Thailand: Mekong River dams change lives downstream

At the completion of the Mekong Media Forum last week in Chiang Mai, tensions were evident among the journalists, film makers, public officials, and NGOs on hand who, discussing diverse uses of Mekong waters, focused on effects of Chinese dams on the well being of people downstream.  Nine dams are contemplated for hydroelectric power, with three already in place. Fluctuating water levels along downstream portions of the 3,032 mile waterway have damaged agriculture and fisheries, in the process threatening to change the diet and reduce the income of 60 million Mekong Basin people. Changes in water flow patterns and sediment deposits are anticipated. The Chinese government has remained silent on consequences of the dams, according to Inter Press Service.

Egypt: Measures taken to seal Gaza border

According to the BBC, Egypt has begun work on what will be a seven mile barrier along its border with Gaza. U.S. Army engineers designed the impenetrable steel wall which extends 18 meters below the surface, and are helping with construction. Component parts are being made in the United States. The Egyptian government has refused to comment on the project which will take 18 months to complete. The underground barrier will be sunk close to the existing perimeter wall. Its purpose is to block cross border tunnels that presently serve as conduits for food and essential materials in short supply inside Gaza because of the Israeli blockade. Israel says they also allow entry for banned people, weapons and rocket components.

France: Migrant workers to take to the streets

Journalist Nadia Lamarkbi last month opened a face book page titled “A day without immigrants: 24 hours without us.” Within hours, 33,000 members had signed on. Planning since has advanced toward a strike on March 1, 2010, the fifth anniversary of the “Code of Entry and Residence of Foreigners” taking effect. That legislation is criticized for its excessively “utilitarian and economic” view of immigration, reports Bloggers in the provinces and in Italy have begun regional planning efforts – See – so that “French society will realize the true wealth derived from immigration.” What has become a movement is modeled on the May 1, 2006, demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of mostly Latino immigrants in the U.S.

Colombia: Political leader denounces assassination plan

Bogota City Counselor Jaime Caycedo notified the attorney general last week that paramilitary groups are preparing to assassinate him. He has been targeted, according to, because of his denunciations, in the media and before the city council, of the growing presence of heavily armed paramilitaries in half the city’s districts. Caycedo, a leader of the Alternative Democratic Pole, referred also to a “black list” of other leaders of that leftist electoral coalition named as potential victims. He condemned governmental failure to investigate intelligence and police operatives who illegally monitor him. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights provides precautionary surveillance for Caycedo as a survivor of the massacre of Patriotic Union activists that began two decades ago. Caycedo is General Secretary of Colombia’s Communist Party.

Cuba: Imports down, trade relations reshuffled

La Jornada newspaper last week reported that Cuba has cut off some 50 European and Latin American companies providing the island with goods and services. They include the Canadian oil company Pebercan, which after 15 years now accounts for seven percent of Cuba’s crude oil production. Cuba has frozen accounts worth millions of dollars of several dozen companies, and delayed payments. Corruption is given as the reason for a “massive adjustment” of foreign providers. Penalties may be imposed. Official sources indicated, however, that funds could be released to companies willing to renew shipments. Cuban promises of payments through foreign sources of credit are intended as encouragement. Cuban foreign trade is down 36 percent this year, due mostly to reduced imports.


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.